Congratulations to Our New Designated Emphasis Students

The Program in Critical Theory is delighted to welcome 16 new students to the Designated Emphasis in Critical Theory. The new cohort includes graduate students from Berkeley departments in the social sciences, humanities, and professional schools. These new admits bring the total number of Critical Theory DE students to nearly 105.

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Congratulations to CT Graduate Students on Extraordinary Teaching in Extraordinary Times Awards 

The Program in Critical Theory would like to congratulate DE students Spencer Adams (Rhetoric), Pê Feijó (Rhetoric), and Donna Honarpisheh (Comparative Literature) for receiving Extraordinary Teaching in Extraordinary Times Awards! 

“The Extraordinary Teaching in Extraordinary Times Award is intended to honor UC Berkeley faculty, staff, and student instructors who in 2020 embraced the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, and engaged in or supported excellent teaching. These instructors and staff used innovative methods and worked beyond their traditional roles to ensure that students remained engaged and supported, and were challenged to do meaningful work under extraordinary circumstances…” 

More information can be found on the Research, Teaching, and Learning web page.


Critical Theory Dissertation Fellowships are awarded to Critical Theory DE students with records of achievement and promising dissertation projects. Fellowships support students writing their dissertations, providing full fee remission (where required) and a full stipend, usually for a semester. Other research grants of shorter term (including summer) may also be awarded, as resources permit.

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Jessica Ruffin is a PhD candidate in Film & Media, with Designated Emphasis in Critical Theory. She holds an MA in German Literature and Culture from UC Berkeley (2018) as well as an MA in Humanities from University of Chicago (2008). Her interdisciplinary research brings together aesthetic philosophy, media theory, spectatorial theory, and media archaeology towards inquiry into ethical relation and aesthetic experience. Jessica received the Critical Theory Dissertation Fellowship in 2020 for her project, A World Divided: Schopenhauer, Aesthetics, and Cinematic Experience, which draws upon the aesthetics and ethics of Arthur Schopenhauer in order to reframe and reimagine 20th-century German media and cultural theory in light of ethics, feminist, and critical race theories. Working from this intersectional and historical standpoint—which she terms “amphibious”—A World Divided proposes an ethics of emergence in order to contend with the highly-politicized, contemporary media milieux In Fall 2021, Jessica will join the University of Michigan Society of Fellows for a 2-year appointment. Following that, she will begin as Assistant Professor in the Literature Faculty at MIT.

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Critical Theory Program Welcome Event for visiting Ph.D-program admittees, March 17

UC Berkeley’s interdisciplinary Program in Critical Theory will hold its annual “Critical Theory Program Welcome” for visiting Ph.D-program admittees (prospective Berkeley doctoral students) across the Social Sciences, Arts, and Humanities next Wednesday. 

The “Welcome” will take place Wednesday March 17, from 2:30-3:30 via Zoom. 
The meeting link is here.

All current CT students and faculty are invited to attend. In prior years, the CT Welcome/Discussion of the Designated Emphasis made a real difference for students deciding whether to do their doctoral work at Berkeley. The gathering will allow for CT Program faculty, staff, and current students to speak with visiting admittees, conveying to them what the DE in Critical Theory is, and responding to questions the visiting doctoral-program admittees may have. Please come to this brief event—even if you can only drop in for a few minutes.

Please direct any questions to

Designated Emphasis Application Deadline, March 18

Applications to the DE in Critical Theory are due Thursday, March 18, by 4 pm. All students enrolled in PhD programs at UC Berkeley who have not already taken the QE are eligible to apply. To learn more about the application process and access application forms, please visit the academics webpage.

Join the Program in Critical Theory faculty and students for the Designated Emphasis Virtual Open House on February 16 at 5:30 pm for a panel discussion and Q&A about the Designated Emphasis in Critical Theory. All UC Berkeley PhD students interested in applying to the DE are invited to attend.

Please direct any questions to

A view of the Koura region from the Orthodox monastery in Bkeftine, Lebanon. Aaron Eldridge 2019.

Graduate Student Spotlight: Aaron Eldridge

Aaron Eldridge is an anthropologist specializing in contemporary asceticism in the Levant. His interdisciplinary research interests include Muslim-Christian entanglements in the Eastern Mediterranean, postcolonial political theologies, historical consciousness, as well as theories of destruction and form of life. His work has appeared in Exchange (2020) and Qui Parle (forthcoming).

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Thom Sliwowski is in his sixth year in the PhD program in Comparative Literature, writing a dissertation tentatively titled Minor Senses of Historical Time in Late- and Post-Socialist Central Europe. He is affiliated with the Institute for Slavic, East-European, and Eurasian Studies, and he is currently living abroad, on a research fellowship with the EXC2020 “Temporal Communities” cluster, at the Friedrich Schlegel Graduiertenschule für literaturwissenschaftliche Studien, Freie Universität, Berlin.

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Congratulations to the Program’s Recent Graduates

Congratulations to the Program’s most recent graduates! Now in its eleventh year, the Program in Critical Theory enrollment has grown to 91 active students with 73 affiliated faculty. To date, 61 UC Berkeley PhDs have earned a Designated Emphasis in Critical Theory.

Jason L. Ferguson (December, 2020)
PhD in Sociology
DE in Critical Theory

Suzanne Li Puma (December, 2020)
PhD in Rhetoric
DE in Critical Theory

New Affiliated Faculty Spotlight: Sara Mameni

Sara Mameni, Assistant Professor in the Department of Ethnic Studies

Sara Mameni is an art historian specializing in contemporary transnational art and visual culture in the Arab/Muslim world with an interdisciplinary research on racial discourse, transnational gender politics, militarism, oil cultures and extractive economies in West Asia.

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New Affiliated Faculty Spotlight: Fumi Okiji

Fumi Okiji, Assistant Professor, Rhetoric

Fumi Okiji’s research looks to black expression for alternative ways to understand the inadequacies of modern and contemporary life. Okiji explores how black and Africana music, sound cultures and expression, more broadly, provide the basis of a critical theory. Okiji’s approach is thoroughly interdisciplinary, drawing from black radical thought and expression, critical theory, feminist thought, sound studies, and musicology. Okiji is an improvisor and jazz vocalist—whose research is greatly informed by this practice.

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New Affiliated Faculty Spotlight: Djordje Popović

Djordje Popović, Assistant Professor, Slavic Languages and Literatures

Djordje Popović’s research and teaching interests include 20th- and 21st-century South Slavic literature, Yugoslav modernism and state socialism, critical theory, and intellectual history. Popović’s essays on the appropriation of the dialectical tradition and on the ontologizing of alienation in the western reception of East European modernism have appeared in the journal Contradictions and in History, Imperialism, Critique: New Essays in World Literature (Routledge, 2019).

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CT faculty will be teaching thirteen spring 2021 courses that count towards the Designated Emphasis in Critical Theory. These courses reflect the interdisciplinary breadth of the Program, with core and elective options in Education, English, Film, French, Law, Philosophy, and Rhetoric.

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